Here's a situation.

I brought some coats, but even if I wear all of them I'm still cold. I have others at home. I would have been much better off if I had brought 'the others'.

Here, can I call 'coats' that are at home as 'the others' in this situation? I know I can use 'others' when I need to refer to something that is not here, but when I refer to them 'again', can I use 'the' because it was mentioned before? The thing is how to tell if 'the others' is something left or something that is not here. Because we can also use 'the others' as something left, we need to tell what 'the others' refer to. It can only be deduced from the context, right?

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    The the is exactly right. However, it's simpler to say "if I had brought them", since that refers by default to the most recent NP which is semantically eligible -- which is the others in the preceding sentence. Mar 5 '15 at 2:58
  • @StoneyB That's odd, I get a different treading for that. Maybe a pond thing. For my GB ear, precisely because the them seems a bit ambiguous it seems to require strong contrastive stress (not normally available in the writing). Ideally, to my ear, it actually requires those :) Jun 3 '15 at 8:55

A simple way to learn here is ask yourself, whether the listener has any hint that there are other coats at home or wherever? If yes, you may go for the definite article.

Calling them '...the others' in this context simply means that you are talking about those in the home.

Take another example, where there is a group of 20 pupils. You see 14 and say...

Okay, here are the pupils; but where are the others?

On the other hand, if you are talking to the same group of pupils in general, you may say..

Okay, this is between all of us. Don't tell it to others

Here, others shall refer to rest of the people, may be their colleagues, may be their country fellow or even rest of the world! That said, you are not specific when you use 'others' but when you are, you use 'the others'. The listener knows whom you are talking about.


According to The Free Dictionary, the pronoun "others" means other people or things/additional or further ones and "the others" means the remaining ones in a group.

So when you say "you have others at home", it means that you have other or more coats at home apart from what you have brought. On the other hand, when you say "I would have been much better if I had brought the others", it means that you are referring to the remaining coats that are left at home. However, it sounds better if use "them" instead of the others, as suggested by StoneyB. Look at the following sentences to know the difference between others and the others:

Some coats are better than others.

Take two coats and leave the others.

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